Socom: Special Forces
Socom: Special Forces review: Socom 4 (Socom: US Navy SEALs in some regions) is a tactical shooter
- Effective use of command system to guide different squads.
- Stealth missions are quite satisfying.
- Move compatibility is fun but I wouldn't trade it for a controller experience.
It's not exactly a ground-breaking game but Socom: Special Forces stands out compared to some linear third-person shooters with its unique squad command mechanics.
There are shooter games where you can use cool vehicles. There are shooter games where you have a bunch of AI companions to help you out. But not often do you get a game where you can command your AI to execute strategies to snuff out the enemy. Which is why Socom: Special Forces (Socom 4 — known as Socom: US Navy SEALs in some regions) is a welcome addition to the tactical third-person shooter genre.
In the newest game in the long-running Socom series, you assume the role of Cullen Gray who leads a team of NATO Special Forces to fight terrorists known as Naga near the Strait of Malacca.
Besides the whole “Naga” term stirring up memories from World of Warcraft, I was thrown off by the seemingly Aussie accent of Gray. I looked into it and apparently he's meant to be either British or American depending on which region you buy the game in, but I could have sworn he sounded as Aussie as Paul Hogan's “shrimp on the barbie”.
But I digress.
The single player campaign consists of 14 missions stretched over six-days.
One of the biggest objections I have to many modern shooter games, especially FPSes, is the short and linear nature of single player campaigns — and this is true of Socom 4. The missions are brief and the objectives are laid out neatly. However, it's not one of the worst offenders and I give it credit for mixing the gameplay up to keep interest from waning.
The Socom series' drawcard has always been the ability to command troops in real-time in a shooter context. Certainly as a child I salivated over TV ads of Socom: US Navy SEALs on PS2 (voice commands seemed so innovative at the time).
In Socom 4, your minions — I mean, comrades — are split into colour-coded groups, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Blue team, for example, is more suitable for mid-range brute force attacks while the Gold team specialises in taking out enemies quietly at close range. Orders are issued through the D-pad.
The different attributes of your squad mean the game is not just about storming into a hostile zone, guns ablaze and facing enemies Rambo style. You can do that if you want, but Socom gives you an opportunity to actually employ tactics. Commands can be issued to set waypoints, flank enemies and so on.
It would be a waste not to exploit this kind of freedom in commanding AIs, especially if you've played games where your daft AI allies repeatedly run into danger and get themselves killed. That's not to say the AIs don't bug out and misbehave every now and then, but it is not as frustrating as some other games I've played.
The basic AI system in Socom 4 is very similar to Gears of War. Your comrades can get incapacitated and you will have to locate and heal them to keep them going. Socom even borrows the cover system made famous by Gears of War, albeit not as effectively. It takes some time to get use to the quirks with the new system and sometimes I find the game forces you to rely on taking cover too much.
Combat strategy is an exciting component of Socom, but what I liked the most was the stealth missions. In those instances, you assume the character of Agent 45, a Korean stealth expert. In other words, a female and hotter version of Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid (is that a big call?)
Stealth can be hit and miss in shooter games. The stealth mission with Soap and Captain Price in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare was so linear it took a lot of fun out of sneaking around and taking out enemies. Socom's stealth missions are not mindblowing and are by no means perfect but they offer a bit more freedom.
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